When 2.0 dissolves into businesses

If there’s a big confusion around enterprise 2.0 it’s because of its perimeter, what  makes the concept very nebulous for novices and even for specialist who sometimes seem to disagree although hey are sayning the same thing in different ways.  The question is to know if 2.0 applied to business is about the whole business or only part of.

Let’s broach the issue under its two more common angles : philosophy and technology.

At the philosophy level we can consider thatthe 2.0 way can apply to the whole business. As a matter of fact, today’s businesses have to face a need for agility, have to get to grip with this worlds of informal interactions’ very nature and, whether they want it or not, have to improve the use of those informal flows in the say way they optimized material flows in the past. But let’s be true : as I and many others wrote, enterprise 2.0 is not web 2.0 and works on different basis. Levers that makes dynamics possible in one won’t operate in the other and vice versa. In brief, the point is to make the web’s brownian move business compliant. Understand that hierarchy is needed, that some walls have to be kept, and the purpose is business before all. A sort of Wirearchy or service oriented organization.

Nothing new bout all that, we’re only heading back old recipes in a new context : we’re close to Peter Drucker’s literature, of concepts like empowerment or participative managment, to what Bob Sutton explained in “The knowing Doing Gap”. Closer to us, Gary Hamel in “The future of management” didn’t say anything else.

The only thing that changes since Drucker early writins is that the world has really become what he predicted and that the knowledge worker he wrote about decades ago is now a reality even if businesses struggle to draw the right consequences, and that  a new generation of tools makes it possible to embrace this radically different context and the behaviors it implies.

Actually, let’s talk about tools. I challenge anyone to prove me business can run in 2.0 mode only. Very specific process tools will remain. There are things that need flexibility and adhocracy and those that have  to follow very strict rules. The Lokheed Martin case shown at the last Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston is the proff by the example : they can’t accept any improvisation in production, but for the rest serendipity has its place. At the opposite, a business that manages without the relevant tools to take the most of its informal sphere, to allow adhoc system’s emergence, is giving itself a true handicap. That is why I always say that the enterprise will never be 1.0 or 2.0, that it’s a whole, and by focusing too much on 2.0 and neglecting the enterprise the risk of missing the issue is obvious.

In brief, businesses, in their 2.0 sense, will emerge only if we can embrace the whole business reality. We won’t build 2.0 ex nihilo but on what already exist, and never say “what was before doesn’t matter, we’re doing something new”.

In the intensive interaction context that is ours, where everything impacts everything, it’s impossible to treat any side of a business independantly form others, to make successive focus without having done a macro analysis in order to understand how these gears work together.

This is confirmed by what I consider being a very relevant diagram about organization transformation.

It corroborates what I wrote above. After the focus on localized needs and small perimeter experimentations (with all the risks pilots implies since we face tools and behaviors that need a critical mass of information and people to deliver their full potential), we get to  the step that is a big step in terms of value : the one when some business processes are redifined according to what has been learnt in ordrer to take the most of the new things that are being implemented. Since we’re talking about work tools (a tool that’s not used for working is useless in the workspace), we have to care about the way people currently work and see how these new tools can make it more efficient. The fact is businesses have not waited for anything 2.0 to work, produce, make value, sometimes with relevant behaviors and tools, sometimes with irrelevant one but they’ve done with what they had at their disposal. So it’s obvious that some information flows and activities have to be moved from tools to others. Work is already organized so before trying to make some new impredictable things emerge, a work has first to be done on existing processes. It’s only after having got to grip with new tools but with known tasks that people would be reassured and able to embrace the full potential of what’s they’re being given.

Finally it may look very far from the traditional enterprise 2.0 discourse but there’s a need for replacing the right things at the right place : tools have to serve businesses’s purpose and get into employee’s day to day life or they’ll be forgotten because not being essentiel to achieve daily tasks. Web 2.0 can content itself of being nice to have, enterprise 2.0 must focus on becoming a must have or it will join the cemetery of the “nice but useless experiments”

This is also confirmed by a recent McKinsey survey : the difference between businesses that succeed in implementing 2.0 and those who failed is that the first often undertake and organization and management change process at the time they’re implementing new tools.

It’s, accordin to me, the deep trend that is emerging for the next months and will impact enterprise 2.0 projects : it’s about work, day to day job, it’s key to focus on a purpose, see how things are done today to achieve the related goals, see what has to be kept and what has to be moved on more adapted tools. This trend has been emerging for months, people first wondered about communties within enteprises and finally realized that contrary to the web, they need a clearly defined purpose. Last week, Dion Hinchcliffe wrote that communitis were to get things done. It’s the same for enterprise 2., whether we consider it as tools or as a philosphy.

2.0 is able to dissolve into the business and it’s a good thing. Things will have turned out fine the day with 2.0 will not be visible anymore as such and will be a part of employee’s daily life without looking like a patch.

 
  • Mary Adams

    This is a great discussion of the challenge that every businessperson is facing (whether they realize it or not). We live at the cusp of two eras with a foot firmly in each. Our organizations in many ways look like traditional industrial companies with org charts, processes and accounting that were designed for mass production. But value creation has moved “off balance sheet.” We are feeling our way into the 2.0 world without much structure or help. The tough part is deciding which foot to move as you take each new step.

  • http://www.duperrin.com/english Bertrand DUPERRIN

    “Our organizations in many ways look like traditional industrial companies with org charts, processes and accounting that were designed for mass production. But value creation has moved “off balance sheet.””
    I wouldn’t have said it better. Btw it implies that value creation as shifted from production to somewhere else… conception and idea management ?

    Did some classic activities shift to 2.0 “naturally” because it was more efficient ?